The death toll from the strongest earthquake to hit Albania in more than three decades rose to at least 27 on Wednesday, as the country observed a day of mourning.Among the deaths, which included children, were at least 12 people killed in the coastal city of Durrës, at least 14 in Thumanë, and at least one in Kurbin. Officials say the death toll could increase further, with several people still unaccounted for. Hundreds of others were admitted to the hospital with injuries.
The government declared the state of emergency for the areas affected the most, as rescue crews continued to work to pull people from the rubble. Prefect of Durrës Roland Nasto told VOA there are nine sites "in the city where crews continue to work to find people," suggesting the toll might rise."[Tomorrow] we will start the process of finding shelter for people who today are under open skies and who will spend the night in tents, some of them - due to the trauma -- even refusing to be sheltered in arenas or gyms, afraid to be somewhere with a ceiling," Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Tuesday.He later visited Thumanë to assess the damage."We want our loved ones to be dug out of the rubble as soon as possible," said a Thumanë resident, who told VOA's Albanian Service her cousin and his wife were missing.Another resident said, "We are trying to find people that are dead or alive. We are afraid to go inside the buildings for fear that they will crumble."President Ilir Meta and opposition leader Lulzim Basha also visited areas affected by the quake.Aid and support has poured into the affected areas, with people offering their homes and sending care packages from different parts of Albania. Kosovo's outgoing government allocated $550,000 for relief efforts and Kosovo's Security Force sent specialized teams and enlisted help from private companies.Rescue teams and specialized crews were dispatched from neighboring Kosovo, Italy and Greece."Two groups of specialized crews have come from Kosovo, two from Greece, two from Italy, and we expect a specialized group of 40 from Italy," Nasto said.Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who was visiting North Macedonia Tuesday, later in the day visited Albania to offer "any assistance needed to face the catastrophic situation."The European Commission said on Twitter that its stands by Albania "at this difficult time following the earthquakes.""We have mobilized immediate support to help local authorities, and rescue teams from Italy, Greece and Romania are already on their way," a statement on Twitter said.
Help also arrived from France, Turkey, Serbia, and the United States.The U.S. Embassy also sent a statement of condolence."The United States stands with our friends in Albania, just as Americans and Albanians have always stood by each other during difficult times. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and stand ready to offer our support," the Embassy said.On Wednesday, Pope Francis said he was praying for Albania."I would like to send a greeting and express my closeness to the dear Albanian people, who have suffered so much these days," the pope said. "Albania was the first country in Europe that I wanted to visit. I am close to the victims, I pray for the dead, for the wounded, for the families, may God bless them, the people that I love."The Albanian diaspora also was rallying to help, holding several fundraisers to send money to one of the poorest countries in Europe."I am so heartbroken for my people back home, for those who have lost lives and loved ones," New York City Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, an Albanian American, told VOA.